Between May 21 and May 23 the ancient tradition of fire-walking lives on in Greece (as well as in Bulgaria). Dating back to pagan times, the traditional ritual of fire-walking is celebrated in Northern Greece even today.
Along with the fire-walking ritual, the celebrations include various processions, music and dancing. On the eve of the feasts of Saints Constantine and Helen, while trancelike rhythms of beating drums sound in the background, the Anastenarides take part in dances and enter a state of trance.
During this trance, they carry the icons of the saints Constantine and Helen and dance ecstatically for hours before walking barefoot across hot coals.
It is largely believed that the ceremony is the survival of an ancient Dionysian ritual which was later given a Christian interpretation to achieve a better reception from the Greek Orthodox Church. This way the age old tradition of the Anastenarides stayed alive over the centuries.
Join us for "Dance is Cult - HOROS traditional dance" and learn more about the Anastenaria and other cultic dances: https://www.estia-sfakia.gr/download/estia-sfakia-2019-week-42-horos-dance-is-cult.pdf
Join us Wednesdays for the brand new “360° of Chora Sfakion“!
NATURE mindful hiking with ESTIA Sfakiá in beautiful May!
Together we time travel on our extended walk, that takes us through all four neighbourhoods of Chora Sfakion. Starting in the lively neighbourhood around Chora Sfakion’s old harbour we very soon reconnoitre narrow alleys and lonesome churchyards as we continue our walk through the village.
Retracing many years of history we will not only hear about Chora Sfakion’s present and past but will also immerse ourselves into the many legends that entwine Chora Sfakion.
Guided mindfulness exercises will facilitate a moment-by-moment nurturing awareness and expand your peripheral vision. We discover hidden places of beauty along the way and relish the powerful nature of Sfakia that narrates tales of freedom and bygone times. Conscious stopping along the way will bring us into the present moment and deepen our connection to our surroundings. Savouring silence will relax our body and calm our spirit.
Evdemonia, a concept of bliss
Καλό μήνα και καλή Πρωτομαγιά!
ΕΥΧΕΣ για έναν ΜΑΓΙΚΟ ΜΗΝΑ - γεμάτο ΦΩΣ, πανέμορφα ΧΡΩΜΑΤΑ και μεθυστικά ΑΡΩΜΑΤΑ!
Happy Mayday 2019!
Best Wishes for a magic month - full of light, beautiful colours and enchanting flavours!
May Day is called “Protomagiá“ in Greek. The ancient celebration of May Day continued throughout the centuries through various customs and traditions. The May festivities of bygone times included various processions were ancient Greeks would carry flowers to the sanctuaries and temples. The Minoans are believed to have celebrated one of their two major "New Year" celebrations about this time and a flower festival for the Greek god Dionysos was also celebrated at this time.
Ever since antiquity the May Day celebration continued to exist as it is believed that flowers represent the beauty of the gods and bring glory, happiness and health. Over the centuries, the original meaning of May Day was altered and the ancient Greek customs survived as folk traditions.
Nowadays, in Greece, one of the most popular traditions of May Day is the creation of a May wreath out of the local wildflowers which are then hung on doorways, balconies, on ships and many other places.
The Greek Easter egg tradition
Dying & Cracking: Playful symbolism
As Greek-Orthodox Christians, we dye our eggs on Holy Thursday in a deep red (or a little less intense as we prefer the natural way of dying with dyer´s madder). We crack them playfully and sometimes competitively right after “Χρηστός Ανέστη“ (“Christ has risen”). This tradition - while fun as a game - symbolises multiple things: The egg of course stands for the new life as it contains a new life sealed within it. The red colour represents the blood of Christ, shed on the Cross, and the hard shell of the egg symbolises the sealed Tomb of Christ - the cracking of which symbolises his resurrection from the dead.
Now for YOU available again!
Experience the health benefits of olive oil and take your time to relax and unwind…
Since ancient times, warm oil massage has been a means of comfort, healing and blessing on an energetic level.
A touch is worth more than a thousand words. By touching the body, we are able to gently touch the soul, while the oil’s spirit takes care of transformation. A warm oil massage will support your SPRING DETOX and will stimulate your metabolism in a gentle way.
Sage tea is an ancient herbal remedy that has been used throughout history to treat a number of ailments.
This Mediterranean herb is best known for being a great tonic not only for women, but for anyone in general. Rich and nutritious this is a herbal tea that should be part of your home remedy collection due to the multitude of uses it has.
Sage tea has many benefits due to the many nutrients, vitamins and minerals. Among these components are vitamins A, B1, B2, B3, C and E, and minerals such as calcium, iron, magnesium and potassium. Sage also contains tannins, antioxidants, thujone, camphor and rosmarinic acid.
Poppy Fields in April
The best time to come to Crete and see a unique range of wild flowers is spring.
During April and May Crete is covered with wildflowers. There are wild orchids, camomile, anemones, iris, poppies etc.
With over 1700 plants and wild flowers Crete is a colourful and aromatic place especially in springtime. Their fragrances fill the air wherever you go and enchant your senses.
ESTIA Sfakiá ON TOUR
Beautiful March Impressions
Discover Crete in March and enjoy marvellous impressions such as
- the enchanted Palm Forrest of Preveli,
- the Flower of Life and its amazing play of light in the
Holy Monastery of Preveli,
- Almond blossoms at Akrotiri,
- striking details of the beautiful Monastery
Gouverneto at Akrotiri,
- goat’s paradise in Aradena or
- the stunning view down on Agios Pavlos from
Selouda Plateau and much more…
Now online: OLIVES - Miracles of Nature 2019
Oil Glaze vs. November Blues
ANATRIPSIS health & care
Hippocrates, the father of medicine, first used the term Anatripsis describing its beneficial effects on body, mind and soul. Benefit, too, from an olive oil treatment and explore the mysteries of ancient healing arts on an exciting healing voyage of discovery.
Happy New Year!
2019 has just started and we wish everybody a wonderful and marvellous year.
Greece has a lovely tradition of baking a special pie for New Year, to greet the New Year in a nice way and also to celebrate the name day of Saint Basil (Agios Vasilios).
There exist several traditional recipes that vary slightly from family to family or from region to region. It is called „Vasilopita“ and a „lucky coin“ is hidden inside. The pie receives a blessing and is cut into slices on New Year’s Day. The slices are dedicated to the home, to Christ, to Virgin Mary, to the poor, to the hosts and to Saint Basil followed by each family member from oldest to youngest. Whoever is lucky to get the coin in their slice will have a very lucky new year.
It´s the end of the year
and ESTIA Sfakiá says…
As another year slightly draws to a close, it’s time for us to give thanks to all our customers, partners and friends that supported ESTIA Sfakiá.
As a young and small company, it means a lot to us that you chose us to create or complement your holiday experience by showing interest, sharing your time and providing open-hearted encouragement - be it that you travelled Crete’s wild west with us, enjoyed the treatments of the Ancient Art of healing, went on a boat trip along the stunning South Coast, explored the Mountain Worlds or wondered about the 100 churches of Sfakiá, joined us for one of our musical events, harvested olives with us in November or simply stepped by to have a cup of iced herbal tea or spiced coffee - THANK YOU!
We also thank our network of partners and friends that support us and help us create and deliver not only authentic travel experiences but also a diverse and uniquely beautiful seminar and event programme, which connects and inspires people on their many-faceted journey. Their local knowledge and expertise is key to inspirational, intriguing and memorable travel and truly local experiences.
Reflecting on 2018
This year has been truly exhilarating.
We founded ESTIA Sfakiá to create a space within which a connectedness between people and cultures, between body and soul can arise. Our aim is to promote and maintain Cretan tradition, nature and life within the framework of a holistic cultural centre that respects community needs.
In July, we officially celebrated our opening of the Culture Centre ESTIA Sfakiá that is located in beautiful Chora Sfakion’s old harbour. At our Centre, we focus on the understanding and appreciation of the three great columns of Cretan life: "Healthy Life“, “Vivid Tradition" and "Powerful Nature“.
As a Travel Agency we also strive to implement sustainable tourism that preserves local tradition, promotes healthy living and protects nature.
Besides extending our range of products and services it is a great pleasure for us to offer you a diverse seminar programme, including a very special journey called “Magical Mystery Tour“ through Western Crete in May/June 2019 that will provide a uniquely beautiful experience.
Last but not least
You might also like to keep sneaking a peek on this blog or our facebook site to enjoy the little treats we will be preparing for you such as the festive carols sung in Greece in these days. It would be of great joy to us to share a very special part of vivid tradition this way, sending you our very best wishes of joy, health and happiness.
We are very much looking forward to stay connected and to share the many facets of healthy life, powerful nature and vivid tradition with you in 2019!
Lots of love,
Savina and Thomas
Christmas, New Year and Epiphany
Carols (kalanda), traditional songs performed on the eves of the twelve-day festive period’s three major celebrations – Christmas, New Year and Epiphany (January 6) – represent a special feature of the country’s customs. As the songs are sung by children who go from house to house to spread hope and joy, the custom is made even brighter.
Greece’s carols are deeply ingrained in byzantine tradition, which, in turn, connects to pagan origins. It is believed that the history of carolling reaches deep into the past and connects with ancient Greece. In fact, there exists evidence of carols written in those past days which are very similar to the ones sung today.
GREEK CHRISTMAS CAROL
Good day lords
If it's your bidding
Of the Christ's divine birth
I will tell in your manse
Christ is being born today
In the town of Bethlehem
The heavens rejoice
And all creation delights
In the cave he is born
Within the horse manger
The king of the heavens
And Maker of all . . .
GREEK NEW YEAR EVE´S CAROL
First of the month and first of the year
My tall rosemary
Let our good year begin
Church with the holy throne
It is the beginning when Christ
Holy and spiritual
Will walk on earth
And cheer us up
St. Basil is on his way
And will not deign on us
You're a Lady milady
GREEK EPIPHANY CAROL
Today is the lights and the enlightenment
The happiness is big and the sanctification
Down the Jordan River
Sits our Lady the Blessed Virgin Mary
She carries an organ, a candle she holds
And pleads with St. John.
St. John Lord and Baptist
Baptise this divine child of mine
I shall ascend to the heavens
To gather roses and incense
Good day, good day
Good day to you master and the missus.
On the eve of Christmas, New Years and Epiphany, young children, gathered in groups of two, three or more wander from house to house, singing carols, accompanied by triangle or other simple musical instruments, and spreading joyous messages associated with the festive season. They also express wishes for longevity and luck and are rewarded with some pocket money and a delicious sweets and pastries.
Fortunately, this age-old tradition has remained unaffected especially in rural areas, smaller towns, villages and on islands. The carols are sung on the eves of Christmas, New Years and Epiphany, and they are different for each holiday.
Miracles of Nature
“Olives - Miracles of Nature“ is a confession of love to the tree of trees, the olive tree. A love confession to a small oval miracle, the olive, from which comes the liquid gold of Crete, olive oil - eternal symbols of the ancient Cretan culture. It is also a confession of love to the Sfakiá, probably the most original part of Crete, and its special inhabitants.
It is in Sfakiá that together we time travelled from the Minoan period to today's modern olive cultivation, retracing thousands of years of history, to immerse ourselves in the mythology and beauty that surround Cretan olive culture, which continues to this day to be of fundamental social and economic importance to our beautiful island.
Our focal point was the olive tree, its attributes, its character and its incomparable fruit. We followed the olive´s path from the tree to the plate. In addition, we familiarised ourselves with the health-promoting effect of the olive oil and learned more about the Cretan diet. Moreover, we began to unravel the millennia-old „beauty secret" of olive oil.
What a magnificent tree, what a magnificent fruit, what a magnificent week it was! Get inspired by this year's impressions and join us for the 2019 "OLIVES - Miracles of Nature", Nov 16-23!
With the beginning of October autumn has arrived in Sfakiá. Autumn in Crete unfolds its own magic these days. During this time of year, the radiantly summery island is transformed into a place where a sunny and warm autumn climate invites us to linger. The hospitality of the Greeks graciously embraces you while the sea is still pleasantly warm.
Páchnes Moon Landing
With ESTIA Sfakiá
Páchnes is the second highest mountain (2,453m) of Crete. We start our excursion on 4x4 pickups on a forest and shepherd's slope. We leave the mountain village of Anópolis and escape for a few hours from civilization. The route on the edge of the Lefká Óri (the White Mountains), the largest and most impressive mountain massif on Crete, leads us about 90 min. through the White Mountains. It ends about 2km below the pass Roussiés (2,050 m). From there we hike the approx. 5km to the summit. At the top there is an overwhelming panoramic view of the mountains and the countryside around. Far over in the east, the usually snow-capped peak of the Psilorítis greets us from a distance. In good weather we may even see the peak of the Profítis Ilías in the Taygetos Mountains in the Peloponnese. After a short rest we start the way back. First, it may be a bit hard for us to get up and leave; not because the trail is particularly difficult, but because we feel that in our swift life a precious moment of pause has just passed.
The central part of the Lefká Óri forms an edaphic high desert with almost continuous heights of over 2,000 m. Although precipitation falls especially during the cold season, with the snowmelt all water immediately seeps into the soil, so that the vegetation usually found at this altitude can not thrive (as for example in the equally high neighbouring Ída Mountain). The crystalline limestone of this area is extremely susceptible to erosion. The central summit region of the Lefká Óri is one of the few European desert areas.
40 Cretan herbs
Α sung recipe
The "40 Herbs" ("Το Σαρανταβότανο"), known on Crete, are a mixture of 40 medicinal plants, all of which come from the Cretan soil. For centuries, this traditional herbal tea mix has served to maintain health and strengthen the life force. The traditional recipe contains all the power of the Cretan Earth and the wild medicinal herbs that grow in abundance in the mountains of Crete. Still in the 20th century, the midwives in southern Crete bathed the newborn in "40 herbs". In this way, the infants received the flavours and power of the native Earth.
The mixture contains 40 fragrant medicinal plants such as Dittany, Malotira, Thyme, Sage, Pennyroyal, Rosemary, Jasmine, etc. All the plants are sung in a traditional Cretan song. As a result, the recipe has been preserved over the years. Song and recipe are Cretan heritage and are passed down from generation to generation. In this unique combination of culture, folk medicine and centuries of experience, the legacy of the old Cretans still lives on.
News from the bee hive
Thyme Honey from Sfakiá
Beekeeping has a long tradition on Crete. According to mythology it has been the Nymphs that introduced the secrets of beekeeping to the humans. Myths also tell, that it was a bee called Melissa, that fed the newborn Zeus with nectar.
On of the most impressive and important archaeological finds on Crete is the honeybee pendant of Malia (Minoan, 15th century B.C.).
For thousands of years it has been a special species (Apis mellifera) that provides the high quality honey on Crete. Wild thyme honey from Sfakiá is probably the most famous honey on Crete. Its intense, aromatic flavour lends it to a wide range of culinary uses. In addition, thanks to its essential oil thymol, thyme has an anti-inflammatory, pain-relieving and antiseptic effect.
Ready, steady, loom!
ESTIA Sfakiá starts weaving
Weaving is a Cretan tradition that has been passed down from generation to generation. A few decades ago every household had a loom. Today only a few looms are in operation and few people still master the craft and know the beautiful, complex patterns from memory. It is therefore our pleasure that the loom of the Stamatakis family, which has been sitting unused in a storage room for many years, has found a new home at our place.
Kyria Maria from Anopoli has been visiting us these days tirelessly, patiently and persistently at work. Thread by thread was passed through the fine comb, pulled and stretched. Yarns and strings were pulled tightly, changed here and there, pushed back and forth, innumerable knots knotted, ribbons tied and strapped, wood squeaked, rods were repeatedly adjusted.
Finally, both joy and astonishment were great when the shuttle flew from one side to the other between the threads, shot back again and again and again…
This year´s MID-SUMMER SPECIAL:
Herbal Extract of St. John’s Wort (Hypericum perforatum)
“Magical solar power in extra virgin organic olive oil“
Blossoms and buds of St. John's Wort are placed in oil and, during maturation, their ingredients are transferred to the oil. They also dye the oil red.
Ioannis Vlachos better known as Daskalogiannis was born in Anópoli, Sfakiá. Due to his education he was called “Daskalos“ - teacher. In 1770 he led the 5th Cretan revolt against Ottoman rule. The dance Pentozalis (“5 steps“) reminds of that rebellion and according to tradition was danced by Daskalogiannis and his men before entering the battlefield.
19/05 - 02/06/2018
Travel with ESTIA Sfakiá
Crete’s Wild West - Breathe the spirit of freedom!
Close your eyes and breathe deeply! Listen to the sound of silence, experience wild nature and sense the spirit of freedom! On Crete, freedom is not just a word. On Crete you feel freedom and breathe it. Freedom is the Cretan’s most precious asset.
Sfakiá in the southwest of the island was an enclave of freedom for many years. It is the wildest and most pristine region of Crete and still retains as much freedom today as Europe has to offer these days. Nature here is wilder, the spirit of the inhabitants spreads freedom, the history of resistance is palpable. Sfakiá is home to a people whose hospitality is proverbial, gently lapped by the turquoise waters of the Libyan Sea.
At the same time, Crete's "Wild West" is more than just Sfakiá. It has many faces: rugged landscapes, wild mountains, fertile plains, but also enchanting beaches and cultural history - testimonies of the fearless dedication to freedom.
May Day - Protomagia
May Day has its roots in ancient times. It is the celebration of spring on the first day of May. Ancient Greeks have dedicated May to Demeter, the goddess of agriculture, and to her daughter Persephone, who would return to her mother in the fifth month of the year after spending the winter with Hades in the underworld.
In today´s Greece people pick flowers and use them to weave a wreath that will hang on their door. The drying process symbolizes the vivid rhythms of nature, genesis and passing. On Crete the previous year´s wreaths are thrown into the sea.
Blessing of Animals
The blessing of animals in honour of St. George, the patron saint of shepherds and animals takes place on April 23rd in Asi Gonia, Crete.
Following an old tradition a spectacular ceremony in remembrance of St. George is being held where the shepherds and their animals are being blessed with basil and holy water by the priest.
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